Submitted by Donna Manning
Re: 6/23/21 article titled, “Coronado Resident Admits to Buying and Distributing Tortillas- Answers Questions”
Thank you for your illuminating interview with Luke Serna exploring his thinking before, during, and after the ugly “tortilla” incident. It was reassuring to learn that Mr. Serna’s intentions were not consciously racist, but alarming that he remains so lacking in insight about the firestorm set off by his behavior. He shows little remorse; is comfortable blaming everyone in sight; and suggests that the national criticism of our community is much ado about nothing.
Mr. Serna does not stand alone in his self-righteous complacency about racial ignorance and bias in Coronado. Local commentary on social media has been buzzing with support for his dismissive comment that people are “blowing the [racial aspect] out of proportion”. His lack of racial empathy; denial that we have a serious and now very public racial problem; and ready resort to the blame game are widely shared attitudes in our community. They have previously fueled the vigorous opposition to CUSD’s “No Place For Hate” diversity program developed as part of its Equity Action Plan. People argued that Coronado has no race problem and no need to increase our students’ empathy for racial, religious, and gender differences.
The “tortilla incident” shoots this argument out of the water and illustrates dramatically how much Coronado students (and parents) need to learn more about how race bias, however buried and unconscious, can cause extremely hurtful and embarrassing behavior. As Superintendent Mueller said, this is a teaching moment – needed not just for our students, but also for our parents and the community as a whole.
This disastrous blot on our reputation can be redeemed only if we learn from the past to become a better and more civil community in the future- one that promotes acceptance and dials down racial insensitivity. Moving forward, we must foster an atmosphere of inclusiveness and empathy for others different from ourselves. We should be able to foresee the hurtful impact of our words and actions- not need “20-20 hindsight” to dope out that our behavior is offensive. And we must all relearn the virtues of humility, remorse, and confession whenever we make mistakes – not a reflex blaming of others to avoid self-reflection.
So far, Mr. Serna has compounded his initial impulsive error in judgement by attempting to justify it. But it is never too late for him to reflect, reform, and redeem himself. This one thoughtless action need not define Mr. Serna or our community. We all learn much more from our mistakes than our successes.